Arawakan Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Arawakan Languages


one of the largest families of Indian languages, widespread in the northern part of South America (in the Orinoco, Rio Negro, and Amazon river basins), on the islands of the West Indies, and in southern Florida. There are up to 40 Arawakan languages forming either four or eight large subgroups depending on the system of classification. The most well-known languages are Lokono (Arawak proper), Guajiro, Island Carib, Maipuri, Achagua, Ipuriná, Taino, Piro, Mojo, Paressí. The phonological system of the Arawakan languages is of the so-called Atlantic type: although the vowel system is well-developed (six or seven phonemes), there are relatively few consonants (usually 12—14 phonemes). Their morphological structure is basically agglutinative with some tendencies toward polysynthesism. Suffixation is predominant, but prefixation (possessive prefixation in the noun, subject prefixation in the verb, preverbs, and so forth) also plays a large role. There are both prepositions and postpositions. The pronominal subject often follows the verb, and the demonstrative pronoun follows the word which is modified. There is considerable lexical divergence among the languages. The system of word formation is well developed.


Alden Mason, J. “The Languages of South American Indians,” in Handbook of South American Indians, vol. 6. Washington, D. C, 1950.
Kingsley Noble, G. Proto-Arawakan and Its Descendants. The Hague, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Cuban Spanish has been influenced by the Arawak language of the pre-Columbian Taino culture on the island, they say, as well as by the West African Yoruba language of slaves, and by the massive immigration of Spaniards from the Canary Islands.
As Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein explains, Garifuna is an Arawak language mainly spoken in Belize and Honduras.
Alexandra Aikhenvald presents her analyses on "Serial Verb Constructions in Tariana", an Arawak language from northwest Amazonia, in Chapter 8 (pp.
On This Beautiful Language is filled with bright and ruddy colored illustrations of native Taino individuals going about day-to-day life, and a final page offers some additional information about the Taino culture, and influences that remain with us today through words like "barbecue", "tobacco", "canoe", and "hammock", all of which are derived from the Arawak language.
[1928]: 'The Arawak Language of Guiana', Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen te Amsterdam, Afdeeling Letterkunde, Nieuwe Reeks, 28, 2 [1930], pp.
(The people of the Arawak language family today still comprise one of the more widespread American indigenous cultures, with relatively large kinship nations in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins of South America [Barreiro, 1990a].) The Tainos were a peaceful people, living mostly on the shores as fishers, although they also developed agriculture, were seafaring, and had a cosmology.
Alto Perene, a member of the Arawak language family, is spoken by about 1,000 people in 36 communities in the Upper Perene Valley of the Junin Region in Peru, says Mihas.
Linguists who specialize in one or more Arawak language present studies on negation in representatives of most of the major branches of the Arawak family, spanning geographically from Honduras to Bolivia and from the Andean foothills of Peru to eastern Brazilian Amazonia.
Languages: English (official), Guyanese Creole, Amerindian languages (including Caribbean and Arawak languages), Indian languages (including Caribbean Hindustani, a dialect of Hindi), Chinese
The two Arawak languages in the sample, Baure and Trinitario, also both have formally and functionally related prefixed causatives: ko-/ka-and i(mo)-m Baure and ko-and im-in Trinitario.